With recreational marijuana sales in Illinois set to become legal on Jan. 1., the city of Evanston plans to use sales tax revenue from purchases to help fund a reparations program.
The program will focus on helping the city's black community thrive by fighting the effects of slavery and discrimination while also providing job training and other benefits, said 5th Ward Ald. Robin Rue Simmons.
Although recreational marijuana becomes legal statewide on Jan. 1, it remains unclear when exactly the tax will start being collected. In contrast to Evanston, several other Chicago suburbs have chosen to opt out of recreational marijuana sales.
Ald. Simmons said the city's fund will help address its wealth gap between black and white residents which she estimated at $46,000 per year. An average of $500,000 to $700,000 could be generated yearly, and the fund will be capped at $10 million.
Rev. Michael Nabors, the Evanston NAACP president, said he was pleased with the reparations fund's approval, and hoped the money will go toward improving housing, education and employment for the city's black community.
"Our children and our young people who are African American can really learn high tech, high wage, high skill jobs that's going to result in them being able to take care of themselves," he said.
Ald. Simmons said several other cities have inquired about Evanston's reparations program.
"It'll help improve the black life experience, the black community, the historically black neighborhood, and ultimately that will help strengthen our entire community," she said.
A town hall will take place on Dec. 11 for those hoping to learn more information about the details of the program.